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This dress doesn’t exist outside a  screen. So why did it sell for $9,500? Welcome to fashion’s digital future

From augmented reality fitting rooms to designer clothes for gaming avatars and digital looks to post on social media, fashion designers are going beyond the physical. But, is ‘screenwear’ the sustainable future of fashion or just another passing trend?

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The buyer of the Iridescence dress, which sold at auction for $9,500 in 2019, 'wearing' her dress

The buyer of the Iridescence dress, which sold at auction for $9,500 in 2019, 'wearing' her dress

‘Iridescence’, a ‘couture’ dress which only exists digitally and will never become a physical garment, was designed by world-leading Amsterdam-based digital fashion house The Fabricant. It sold at auction for $9,500 in 2019

‘Iridescence’, a ‘couture’ dress which only exists digitally and will never become a physical garment, was designed by world-leading Amsterdam-based digital fashion house The Fabricant. It sold at auction for $9,500 in 2019

The ‘Deep’ collection is a creative experiment by digital fashion house The Fabricant’s designer Amber Jae Slooten, which saw the designer feed an artificial-intelligence algorithm with imagery from Paris Fashion Week, allowing the computer to ‘dream’ an original fashion collection

The ‘Deep’ collection is a creative experiment by digital fashion house The Fabricant’s designer Amber Jae Slooten, which saw the designer feed an artificial-intelligence algorithm with imagery from Paris Fashion Week, allowing the computer to ‘dream’ an original fashion collection

Digital fashion design by Amber Jae Slooten of The Fabricant. 3D design by: Alexa Sirbu

Digital fashion design by Amber Jae Slooten of The Fabricant. 3D design by: Alexa Sirbu

The Drest app gamifys fashion while encouraging sustainability, allowing users to ‘style before you buy’. Using in-app currency, users can purchase garments, add hair and make-up and choose the styling, then release their finished look for the community to rate

The Drest app gamifys fashion while encouraging sustainability, allowing users to ‘style before you buy’. Using in-app currency, users can purchase garments, add hair and make-up and choose the styling, then release their finished look for the community to rate

Digital dress 'Iridescence', worn by artist Johanna Jaskowska

Digital dress 'Iridescence', worn by artist Johanna Jaskowska

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The buyer of the Iridescence dress, which sold at auction for $9,500 in 2019, 'wearing' her dress

A model is walking on a New York street, wearing a metallic poncho that floats and glimmers in the wind. In the store window behind, however, the model’s reflection shows only a black bodysuit and leggings. The poncho doesn’t exist in the physical world: it’s a digital creation being tested for the ‘screenwear’ try-on app ZERO10. Though not yet seamless — it’s still a little glitchy when the model moves — the clip offers a glimpse into the future of digital fashion, and perhaps the future of fashion as a whole.

The past year has seen an explosion in the digital fashion industry, largely due to lockdown forcing brands to reconsider how to engage with their customers and present their collections online. “I think it’s been kind of the big accelerant for the exploration of all things digital,” says Matthew Drinkwater, head of the Fashion Innovation Agency at the London College of Fashion, whose team works with designer brands and retailers to utilise emerging technology. “I think there’s always been an interest in the area and the work that my team, in particular, has been doing, but I think there was kind of a sense of, yeah, maybe one day that will be important for us.”


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